Dharamshala: Former translator of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Director of ‘Library of Tibetan Works and Archives’, Ven Geshe Lhakdor spoke yesterday on the Buddhist approach to coping with mental challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said that he had received many questions on how to deal with the anxiety and depression arising from the current situation when the world is battling a pandemic and expressed his wish to allay the concerns of the public through this talk.
He said that upheavals and challenges are all an unavoidable part of life, that can be taken as a learning experience. Due to the ongoing pandemic which has led to lockdown, a suspension of normal human activities, on the other hand, it has been noticed that the environment has improved as a result. This situation has also shown us, discrimination based on religion, colour, creed and nationality is senseless, as the virus has clearly shown that it does not discriminate.
From this, we learn nature is unbiased in contrast to human bias. Human bias makes us discriminate and causes ourselves endless suffering, he stated.
He emphasised on keeping a balanced state of mind, as an unhappy mind leads one to be vulnerable to diseases through loss of sleep and appetite which leads to weakened immunity and falling sick.
During these times, compassion and love are key, without these, only medicines can not be as effective in treating a patient suffering from the disease. He also cited the data on patients recovering from the pandemic which stands at 80-90% to indicate that things are optimistic and with WHO and scientists working on the cure, he said it would get better.
The definition of progress as an external material development keeps us work-driven to achieve material prosperity but also causes us to neglect our inner tranquility of mind-resilience, patience, compassion and love. In a situation of lockdown, people panic and are depressed at the thought of their normal life being disrupted but looking from a positive perspective, it is a chance to bond with your family with whom you can not spend this much time usually on a normal work schedule. It can also be an opportunity to learn constructive skills like developing spiritual qualities of love and compassion, or artistic and musical passions, so the mind will be occupied and will not be focused on the destructiveness of the pandemic.
Taking care of your physical health is important with the raging epidemic but so is your mental health to keep your immunity up as science has proven. He cited Shantideva on dealing with anxiety- doing what is possible within your control, while not worrying about things beyond your control. For people of faith, he pointed out that the principles of religion such as in Buddhism states life is transient and impermanent and the best way to deal with it is finding solutions from within and not from outside. He said, the present-day generation is bombarded with so much sensory information from TV and social media, however, they are unprepared to process them accordingly, consequently they suffer as a result from anxiety, anger, jealousy and attachment. He suggested avoiding spending too much time on the news just about COVID-19 and instead focus it elsewhere on constructive things which would help one have a positive outlook.
He called this pandemic the results of “unhealthy human actions” and said that mistreatment and killing of animals has led to this pandemic and once humans realise that their happiness is intertwined with the rest of all the sentient beings only then they can flourish and enjoy peace. He also highlighted the importance of the world leaders in developing these inner qualities to overcome this pandemic and all man-made disasters.